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2016 Vin de Constance (500ml)
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- Closure: Cork
Vin de Constance is a late-harvest style made from Muscat de Frontignan (aka Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains) grapes, without botrytis. 10% of the Muscat is picked early, to make a base wine at 12.5–13 % alcohol with good acidity. The remaining grapes are left to accumulate sugar, and leaf removal exposes the fruit to the sun, which helps raisin the remaining grapes. Then, picking takes place in three passages through the vineyard. Altogether, around 10% of the crop will be raisins. If the raisins have lots of sugar left in the skins, then the base wine is used to flush the flavour out.
The skins are pressed quite hard as tannins are an important part of the style. It’s not possible to settle this dirty juice, so it goes to barrels for fermentation. These barrels are 500 litres and the wine stays in these on gross lees for up to four years.
In the 18th and 19th centuries “the sweet luscious and excellent wine of Constantia” was recognised as one of the great wines of the world, savoured by royalty and given pride of place in the cellars of the world’s greatest wine collectors. Although production ceased during the mid-to-late 1800s, the legend lived on – immortalised in the poetry and prose of the great writers of the 18th and 19th centuries, from Austen to Dickens, from Dumas to Baudelaire. The wine also remained vibrantly alive – in old bottles discovered in some of Europe’s most famous cellars.
In the 1980s, during the redevelopment of Klein Constantia Estate (a sub-division of the original Constantia estate granted to Cape commander Simon van der Stel in 1685), everyone involved was inspired to resurrect the legendary wine. Early records were studied and careful selection made from vines which, in all likelihood, came from the original stock used in Constantia 300 years ago.
Over a century since its disappearance came the renaissance – Vin de Constance – a wine made in the style of the old Constantia, from vineyards celebrated since the late 1600s.
(Notes sourced from Klein Constantia)
The 2016 Vin de Constance is matured in 50% French acacia oak, Hungarian oak and regular French oak, and 50% in French foudres. This has more delineation and precision on the nose compared to the previous vintage, offering acacia honey, quince, saffron and touches of elderflower in the background. The palate is very well balanced with fine precision, a killer line of acidity and disarming purity toward a finish that lingers in the mouth. Stunning.
Increasingly celebrated as one of the great sweet wines of the world, not just the Cape. Slightly drier than the 2015 release at 165 grams of sugar, it has more in common with the Loire or Tokaji than it does with Sauternes in terms of freshness and structure. Drink 2019 - 2035
Tim Atkin MW